J Grassi/Patrick McMullan/Sipa
October 27, 2015 04:45 PM

Anita Sarko, whose spins and style helped define 1980s club culture in New York City, is being remembered for her larger-than-life personality.

The celebrity DJ died at the age of 68 earlier this month in a suicide by hanging, the New York City medical examiner’s office confirmed to PEOPLE.

Jason Weinberg, a longtime close friend to Sarko and manager to a bevy of stars, explained how her inner circle is reacting to the loss.

“We are all saddened and wish the outpouring of love and support had manifested in other ways and sooner,” he told PEOPLE via email.

Columnist Michael Musto shared the news in a heartfelt Facebook post on Friday.

“She was a tough broad who didn’t like being mistreated, and was vocal about those who’d done her wrong,” he wrote.

Sarko was so tough, she took on cancer – and won, Musto explained.

“Five years ago, Anita was diagnosed with both ovarian and uterine cancers, but she was operated on and not only survived, she was declared in the clear earlier this year,” Musto wrote. “But she suffered some lingering pains and also complained of the results of the hormone depletion caused by her hysterectomy.”

She was also concerned about the direction of her career and felt that “projects had reached an absolute dead end for her.”

Sarko, who hails from Detroit, made a name for herself behind the booth of N.Y.C.’s most influential clubs in the ’80s, including Mudd Club and Danceteria.

“Anyone who requested a particular record from Anita was greeted with the retort that she wasn’t a jukebox, otherwise you could just bend her over and put in a quarter!” wrote Musto in his online tribute.

After being drawn to Sarko at a dinner party in the late ’80s, Weinberg soon found himself opting for her couch over his own bed at home.

“Anita was like a guardian angel [or] Jiminy Cricket to me,” he said. “She introduced me to a lot of people and looked out for me as if I was her own blood.”

In later years, Sarko married husband Erzen Krivca; wrote for publications such as Paper, Interview and Playboy; hosted a Sirius XM radio show; and, most recently, worked with photographer Patrick McMullan.

For Weinberg, Sarko’s death is a tragic reminder of the importance of supporting loved ones.

“I think people who have children and younger family members often count on them to be helpful in times of need,” he explained. “I think everyone should reach out to those you love who are older and more alone in life and be there for them more. People get so busy and often take things for granted. I feel very lucky to have had Anita as a friend and miss her dearly.

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